New diet plan: start from reducing soft drink consumption

Research into diet and childhood obesity has shown that those who regularly consume carbonated drinks are more likely to put on weight than others given water or fruit juice. Children who cut back on sugary, fizzy drinks are significantly less likely to become fat, a study has found. A total of 644 children from six primary schools in Dorset took part in the year-long research project, the results of which are published in the British Medical Journal.

Fifteen groups of children, aged seven to 11 years, were given extra lessons by a nurse who encouraged them to cut back on fizzy drinks. That message was regularly reinforced by teachers. Another 14 classes were given only the usual level of nutritional advice.

All the children made their own choices about what they should eat and drink, but at the end of the year researchers found that the children who had been given the extra lessons had cut their fizzy drink consumption by 60 per cent, report

According to at the outset of the research, about 20 per cent of boys and 30 per cent of girls were overweight or obese.

In recent years, childhood obesity rates have been soaring all over the developed world and one of the culprits singled out most often is carbonated drinks. Research published last year showed that caloric intake over the past couple of decades has increased by about 83 calories a day in North America, and virtually all that increase was due to the intake of sugars and sweeteners in soft drinks.

According to the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, obesity rates have risen in tandem with soft-drink consumption. The new study was conducted on preteens but earlier research has shown that it is teenagers who are the biggest consumers of soft drinks.

Teenage boys consume an average of about 600 millilitres of pop daily, and teenage girls about 450 millilitres; they drink twice as much pop as milk. That level of consumption provides boys with about 15 teaspoons of sugar and girls with 10.

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